Many employers will now be hosting their end of year staff functions. While employees often see these events as an opportunity to “let their hair down”, the legal position is clear. An office Christmas party is conducted “in the course of one’s employment”. As such, employers remain legally obligated to provide a safe workplace. Equally, employees have a reciprocal obligation to act safely (responsibly) in the workplace and are required to act in accordance with the policies and procedures of the workplace.
Employers need to remain cognisant of their legal responsibilities and ensure that the office Christmas party is conducted in a responsible way to reduce the risk of claims that may result from inappropriate staff behaviour. There are several reported cases which stem from the office Christmas function which record the outcomes of over zealous partygoers or boorish behaviour at such functions.
But what can be done to ensure a business Christmas function does not leave a legal hangover? Some practical tips to assist employers to provide an enjoyable Christmas party while reducing the risk of unwanted consequences are:
Whilst the office Christmas function is a time to relax and enjoy the company of others, such a function is an extension of the workplace. Hence appropriate standards and decorum need to be maintained to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all concerned.
It is indeed a case of prevention being better than the cure. For further advice please do not hesitate to contact the Lavan Legal Employment and Workplace Relations Team.